ALTO — As a retired high school French teacher, Gainesville Mayor Myrtle Figueras regularly peppers her conversations with a sprinkling of Francais.
On Wednesday, as she welcomed a delegation of representatives of the state’s consular corps, she launched into a full-blown French connection with representatives from France and the Canadian province of Quebec.
"It was very welcoming," said Claire Collobert, the press attache for the French consulate in Atlanta. "I didn’t expect that coming to Gainesville."
Collobert said the three-day tour is an eye-opener for those who spend much of their time in an Atlanta office.
"Participating in this, you get a true sense of what Georgia is," she said.
Ginette Chenard of the Quebec Government Office in Atlanta also chatted with Figueras in French.
"I told her I was so glad to be here, and it is so nice to meet someone who speaks French and so fluently and so well," Chenard said. "She’s a good model for young people in Gainesville."
Across the way, Lutz Gorgens, consul general of Germany, was chatting with business executives from companies with ties to his country.
"This is real life," Gorgens said. "We can’t all year sit in our office in Atlanta. We have to see how the state of Georgia and Hall County works. This is a splendid day to see all of you at work."
Gorgens said that while warm hospitality is extended to the consular corps, there is a purpose for the trip.
"This trip is not leisure. What companies are doing here is not sit around and lament about the economic crisis. We saw optimism and creativity this morning," he said.
The comments came at Jaemor Farm Market, the final stop in Hall County for the diplomats. The morning began at the Atlanta Falcons complex in Flowery Branch, where they learned about the business side of the NFL before trying their skills at passing and kicking footballs in the team’s indoor practice facility.
The group also toured the Kubota manufacturing plant, east of Gainesville.
There they saw the robotic technology used to manufacture rough terrain vehicles and small lawn tractors and mowers.
The trip is coordinated by the Georgia Department of Economic Development and the lunch stop was sponsored by the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce.
The tour continues today as the group will view a presentation at Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School before going to Young Harris College for a program. In the afternoon, the tour stops at several sites in Dahlonega before an overnight stay at Unicoi State Lodge in Helen.
On Friday, they will visit the Kangaroo Conservation Center in Dawsonville and complete their trip with a tour of Hansgrohe’s facility in Cumming.